Working closely with instructor and neuroscientist Sara Freeman, I developed two educational games for the "Intersex: Biology and Gender" class at Emory University (later also used at UC Davis). The goal was to make the biological processes of meiosis (the production of sperm and eggs), and steroidogensis (how hormones like estrogen and testosterone are made) easier to understand. The resulting games also reframe intersex conditions—which are often thought of as aberrations—as part of a system of natural variation. If we can view these often-benign conditions in this light, perhaps we can develop more ethical practices in medicine and in society, and a more nuanced and just conception of sex and gender.
The games are published here. Not designed for mobile devices.
The Meiosis Game starts with 2 gametocytes (sperm and egg) from a typical XX mother and XY father. As the cells divide through meiosis, "disjunction" and "non-disjunction" can occur. In the end, two gametes, one gamete from each parent, are combined to form a zygote. The number of X and Y chromosomes present in the zygote determine the condition of the resulting child. The result can be any one of a variety of chromosomal makeups, including the more common XX female and XY male, a range of conditions considered "intersex", such as XXY (Klinefelter's syndrome), and many other conditions as well.
The Steroidogenesis Game shows how steroid hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, are synthesized from cholesterol by enzymes. Starting from a cholesterol molecule, the player selects several enzymes that alter the molecule, ultimately creating a steroid hormone. The availability of these enzymes determine how much, if any, of a certain hormone an individual produces. Some conditions considered "intersex" include people who, for instance, have "male" XY chromosomes, but have less of the enzyme necessary to produce testosterone.
More information about the Intersex: Biology and Gender class can be found in this interview with Sara Freeman and this article in The Neuroethics Blog. Development of the games was supported by HHMI Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Grant No. 52005873.